Occasionally I walk out of a movie with a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that my eight dollars have allowed me to experience a film that will stimulate my imagination and outlook on human nature. Sometimes I walk out of a movie wanting my money back so I can go rent a movie and make up for the laughably embarrassing film that I have just sat through for the last two hours. This is how I felt the minute that the credits rolled at the end of What a Girl Wants, a film about a teenage girl looking for her father because she has some sort of “void” in her life because even though she has never met him, she “feels” his absence.
Amanda Bynes stars as Daphne, a very unique and spirited seventeen year-old girl from New York who lives with her bohemian-hippie mother Libby (Kelly Preston) and has a perfect life full of possibilities. However, despite her glorious life, Daphne has always wanted to meet her father (Colin Firth), a mysterious Englishman who had a fling with her mother seventeen years before but whose aristocratic family eventually rejected her because they found her unsuitable. Determined to finally meet her father, Daphne instinctively jumps a plane to London, only to discover that her father, Lord Henry Dashwood, is a high profile politician. When Daphne shows up in “stuffy” English society, she causes an uproar as a result of her unorthodox behavior, and threatens Henry’s political career. Thus, the “multi-faceted” and “complex” plot unreels as Daphne tries to change her image in order to fit the expectations of her father and his structured life. Along the way, Daphne meets and is helped by Ian (Oliver James), a local musician, a character who serves the very important purpose of the “cute British sidekick who smiles a lot and says cute one-liners that sound really good with an accent,” but a character who actually takes away any potential for depth in this film.
What a Girl Wants is decent for what it is. Under the domain of a silly comedy looking for deeper meaning, it half-way succeeds in doing so. Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth and Kelly Preston show an impressive ability to be convincing despite the shabby and embarrassing script. Though the characters are one-dimensional, Firth, Preston, and especially Bynes, are able to dig into the script to find the spirit of each character. The film covers every clich